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Drug discovered in soil kills MRSA superbug, could help stem antibiotic-resistance crisis

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For the first time in 30 years, a new type of antibiotic has been unearthed, buried in dirt.

Experiments suggest the antibiotic family, known as malacidins, can kill several ‘superbugs’, including the notoriously difficult-to-treat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The antibiotics’ unique approach to killing pathogens targets bacteria’s cell walls, which did not cause drug resistance in the laboratory, a US study found.

When tested on MRSA skin infections in rats, the rodents experienced no side effects, giving the researchers hope they may have discovered a non-toxic alternative to current antibiotics.

The findings were published in the journal Nature Microbiology.

Experts have previously warned antibiotic resistance poses ‘as big a risk as terrorism’ and could revert modern society back to 19th century conditions where a simple infection or operation may be life-threatening.

A lack of new drugs combined with overprescribing is thought to have driven antibiotic resistance, which, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “has the potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country.”

Study author Professor Sean Brady from The Rockefeller University in New York, said: “Topical administration was successful in sterilising MRSA-infected wounds in a rat model.

“At 24 and 72-hours post infection, malacidin treatment resulted in no observed bacterial burdens in the wounds.

“Likewise, the malacidins showed no significant toxicity against mammalian cells at the highest concentrations tested.

“Even after 20 days of exposure to sub-lethal levels we did not detect any malacidin-resistant S. aureus.”

The researchers are investigating malacidin’s potential at treating human infections.

The scientists analysed more than a thousand soil samples taken from across the United States (U.S.). Antibiotics found in these samples killed a variety of multi drug-resistant, disease causing bacteria.


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